Natural disasters wreak insurmountable havoc on homes, businesses, city infrastructure, and more when they happen; and, they can leave residents unsure of how to go about their day-to-day lives amidst the damage. This is especially true for residents of Puerto Rico who are left with $1.6 billion in unpaid insurance claims from Hurricane Maria, years after the storm struck the island.
Emergency alert sirens Puerto Rico typically depended on in the event of a natural disaster were completely destroyed when Hurricane Maria hit the area in 2017. Hundreds of earthquakes rattled the island for weeks in 2020. With ongoing pending insurance claims, Puerto Ricans are unable to install new warning equipment, leaving many residents and city officials depending on whistles to attempt to alert others of an impending emergency.
Hurricane Maria destroyed multiple power poles, public buildings, homes, roads, and other components of infrastructure throughout Puerto Rico. With a massive $1.6 billion in unpaid insurance claims, emergency facilities, hospitals, stadiums, convention centers, and other government and commercial properties in the area remain in shambles years after the natural disaster.
Though many have blamed the federal government for not providing adequate and timely disaster relief, private insurance companies with a contractual responsibility to help their policyholders have also left the island high and dry. Two insurers went out of business after Maria, and many that remained in business only offered pennies on the dollar for claims, if anything. In many instances, the insurers nearly doubled premiums after the hurricane while continuing to fight what they deemed exorbitant and fraudulent claims, leading to the filing of hundreds of lawsuits since the storm.
The City of Aguadilla sued its insurer, MAPFRE Insurance, after the company paid out $2 million for a destroyed coliseum experts estimated would cost up to $20 million to replace. A water park, ice-skating arena, and an oceanfront boardwalk have also been left unusable since Maria.
An estimated $8.5 billion in insurance claims have been filed since Maria, but only $6.9 billion have been paid out. Several insurance companies on the island have accused various public adjuster firms of inflating claims in order to receive higher recoveries.
Ongoing Recovery Efforts and Unpaid Claims
Hurricane Maria resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2,975 people and knocked out power for many residents for over a year. Puerto Rico has yet to fully recover from the natural disaster. A 2019 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the island’s overall infrastructure a D- grade and its energy infrastructure an F, following the inadequate post-hurricane restoration efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) pressured the island to enact stricter building codes, which went into effect in 2019. Though many buildings have remained vulnerable since Maria, the island did not prioritize earthquake proofing, which resulted in some of the newly elevated buildings collapsing during recent quakes.
Hurricane Maria Insurance Claims Attorneys
Hurricanes and other natural disasters can be incredibly devastating. Hurricane Maria caused an unfounded amount of damage to Puerto Rico in 2017 and many property damage insurance claims remain unpaid.
At Raizner Law we proudly represent Hurricane Maria victims in claims disputes with some of the largest insurance companies in the world. If your insurance claim has been delayed, underpaid, or completely denied, contact our experienced insurance coverage attorneys for a free consultation.